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Health News of Friday, 17 November 2023


48m Nigerians practice open defecation – Balaraba

Open defecation Open defecation

The Minister of Environment, Balarabe Lawal has said about 48M Nigerians practice open defecation in Nigeria.

The Minister said this during a press briefing organised by the Ministry of Environment, in collaboration with the Ministry of Water Resources and Sanitation, to commemorate the 2023 World Toilet Day themed “Accelerating Change” on Thursday in Abuja.

He also noted that all regulatory frameworks would be deployed to ensure adequate enforcement and complement of sanitation laws.

Stressing the need for proper funding, Balarabe said, that projects concerning toilets and sanitation are not properly funded.

He said some states suffer from cholera outbreaks due to inadequate toilet facilities which could have been avoided if individuals practised safe excreta disposal.

Lawal said “Toilets are a foundation stone of public health and they play an important role in protecting the environment. They effectively and hygienically remove human waste away from the home, reducing the exposure our loved ones have to human waste and diseases. Unfortunately, toilets and the sanitation systems that support them are underfunded, poorly managed or neglected in many parts of the world including Nigeria with devastating consequences for health, economics and the environment particularly in the poorest and most marginalized communities. Right now, about 4.2 billion people in the world live without safe toilets and about 48 million Nigerians still practice open defecation, as many people still use the bush and water bodies as their regular means for excreta disposal. Many institutions, public and private, do not have sanitary facilities and where they exist they are either not functioning or misused.

“Most urban areas do not have sewerage systems and safe collection of sewage. Therefore, disposal becomes a huge challenge as many of the water bodies including rivers and streams become a repository for sewage and wastewater. The sanitation crisis poses a threat to our natural environment and the health of citizens, particularly women, girls and other vulnerable groups.

“One of the major consequences of poor excreta and sewage disposal is the high rate of diarrhoea disease which is the second cause of high morbidity and mortality rates among children under the age of five. The persistent re-occurrence of annual incidences of
cholera outbreaks in some of our states is also a manifestation of inadequate toilet facilities. Yet this could also be prevented through safe excreta disposal by every individual.” he said.

Furthermore, Lawal called on stakeholders to take practical steps and actions individually and collectively as agents of change to ensure everyone has access to toilets in their domain.

He said, “I am using this opportunity to appeal to all National, State and Local Government stakeholders in environmental sanitation not only to do the talking but take practical steps and actions individually and collectively as agents of change to ensure everyone has access to toilets in their domain. Likewise, all commercial entities such as petrol stations, shopping malls etc are encouraged to launch functional toilet facilities for the public as part of their corporate social responsibilities.

”I wish to also use this opportunity to inform you that issues of open defecation in Nigeria will no longer be business as usual as the Federal Ministry of Environment will henceforth deploy all its regulatory framework to ensure adequate enforcement of sanitation laws in the country. I therefore call on all Environmental Health Officers/Sanitary inspectors across all levels of government to step up their routine sanitary inspection of premises in their various jurisdictions and ensure that everyone everywhere in Nigeria has access to safe toilets” he said.

In his remarks, the Minister of Water Resources and Sanitation, Joseph Terlumun Utsev said about 18% of Nigerians have access to safely managed sanitation; He urged stakeholders to join hands in accelerating change and ensuring improved services and practices as an essential element of people health and development.

He said, “Only 18% of our population having access to safely managed sanitation and 46% with basic access to sanitation, the Federal Ministry of Water Resources and Sanitation, with its renewed mandate for sanitation is committed to creating an enabling environment through policy, regulations and frameworks to ensure that individual sanitation behaviour aligns with the broader efforts to scale up sanitation within our local system. We are also aware that achieving universal access to sanitation services for all Nigerians depends on the contributions of multiple and interconnected actors at homes, schools, workplaces, healthcare facilities and other community settings. This implies that everyone has a role to play, from breaking the taboo on toilets to fixing leaking water and waste pipes, emptying full septic tanks, reporting indiscriminate dumping of sludge, etc. We all can do our part in accelerating progress to safe toilets and sustainable sanitation for all,” he said.